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Title: Women of the house : race-mixing, mistresses, and servants in Plantation literature of the Americas, 1839-2009
Author: Sparks, K. E.
ISNI:       0000 0004 7224 6456
Awarding Body: UCL (University College London)
Current Institution: University College London (University of London)
Date of Award: 2017
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This study traces literary representations of race-mixing in the Americas as informed by the paradigms of the true Plantation, the nostalgic Plantation, and the post-Plantation, especially through the figure of the black and mixed-race female domestic servant and the potential for darkening she continues to embody. A comparison of US texts with their contemporary counterparts in Latin America focuses on differing ideologies of race-mixing that resulted in divergent representations of black and mixed-race women by Plantation writers, especially in regard to their sexuality. The works analyzed here include: the nineteenth-century abolitionist novels Uncle Tom’s Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe, Gertrudis Gómez de Avellaneda’s Sab, Cirilo Villaverde’s Cecilia Valdés, and Bernardo Guimarães’s A Escrava Isaura; the interwar works Las memorias de Mamá Blanca by Teresa de la Parra and Margaret Mitchell’s Gone with the Wind; and turn-of-the-century novels Como agua para chocolate by Laura Esquivel, Mario Vargas Llosa’s Elogio de la madrastra and Los cuadernos de don Rigoberto, and Kathryn Stockett’s The Help. The representations of black and mixed-race female servants reveal an erasure of race-mixing in US literature that results in the figure’s relegation to a sexless mammy type. Alternatively, Latin America’s relative embrace of mixing results in a different fate for the servant; though granted greater agency and complexity in the literature, she is ascribed an aggressive or hyperactive sexuality that exposes more nuanced regional anxieties about race-mixing and the female body. This study argues that these differences originate in a foundational religious belief in the US’s unique spiritual project, which has worked to exclude the female subaltern from the national identity. Ultimately, this taboo mindset surrounding race-mixing manifests in US post-Plantation literature in an eradication of normative black sexuality unparalleled in contemporary Latin American texts, and condemns its female servant characters to a dehumanizing fate: unwanted, ignored, silenced, unpersoned.
Supervisor: Hart, S. Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available